Nerdy Girl Joanna here.
Dear Pandemic/Those Nerdy Girls gets many questions from parents concerned about how to keep their kids healthy and safe from COVID. Although this is an understandable consideration for ALL parents, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the extra considerations faced by families whose kids may be more vulnerable to COVID due to underlying medical conditions (such as obesity, diabetes or cardiac disease) or genetic, neurological, metabolic, or developmental disorders (such as Down Syndrome, epilepsy, or autism).
Immunosuppressed kids, including kids who are undergoing cancer treatment, are also at higher risk of disease (both from COVID as well as other diseases). As difficult as it can be for parents of healthy kids to make decisions on how to protect them during a pandemic, the calculus is even trickier for parents of kids with these extra vulnerabilities.
I speak from experience: My 14yo son has underlying conditions that put him at higher risk both for catching COVID and for suffering more severe outcomes. Last year, this meant that I had to make the difficult decision to keep him home from his special education school (even when the school was open and making great efforts to keep everyone safe). It was tough. –My son fell even further behind academically (according to some experts, kids in special education have fallen furthest behind during the pandemic) and socially, too. I also felt some isolation as a special-needs parent, hearing other adults downplay COVID’s risk to kids, saying that “it’s not bad for kids at all,” and insisting that “kids need school for their development” (which I agreed with, but more than anything I needed to keep my son healthy, and all else was secondary….trust me, I would have preferred to send him to school whenever it was open).
Fortunately, my son became eligible for vaccination in May 2021(see our post about that happy day) and was able to attend his last few weeks of school. But before that, I believe that it was wise to keep him home (his pediatrician validated my decision, too). It wasn’t easy, but I found that the parenting clichés such as “you know your child best” and “trust your gut” very much apply during COVID times—whether you are deciding about sending your child (high-risk or not) to school, a sleepover or playdate, or a family gathering.
From comments and emails we have received, it’s clear that many of our readers have faced similarly challenging decisions this past year regarding their higher-risk kids. So we’d like to open up this discussion to you! What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced on this front during the pandemic? What has been helpful to you (and what hasn’t been?) What would you like people to know about the experience of raising more vulnerable kids during COVID?
Share it all here. We appreciate your input and candor and hope we can all support each other!